Gadgets are innovative, time-saving products that fall outside the basic categories of tools electricians use. I am not being disrespectful calling these clever items “gadgets.” That said, the items featured here are interesting, useful products that may have been overlooked by workers in the electrical trade.
Clamp-on power strip
The Fatmax power claw by Stanley Tools, New Britain, Conn., combines a powerful clamp and three-outline, grounded power strip. The pivoting, spring-loaded clamp has rubberized surfaces to hold securely to a variety of surfaces. It features a built-in, resettable circuit breaker and a rugged construction to withstand daily use.
Ridgid, Elyria, Ohio, offers a C-style, close-quarter tubing cutter to cut through ½- and ¾-inch tubing in space-restricted or difficult-to-access locations. The cutting wheel is spring-loaded, so no adjustment is required as it spins around the outside surface of a tube. It features a strong, lightweight slide and wheel housing and a large, knurled screw knob to control cutting pressure for clean cuts. Rollers include grooves for cutting near flares. Three models are available.
A magnetized screwdriver or nut driver is extremely helpful when working in hard-to-reach places. Tool magnetizers are inexpensive and easy to use. Users simply slide the tool into a slot and move it up and down. Magnetizers are available at electrical supply houses, hardware stores and online. Familiar brands include Klein Tools, Lincolnshire, Ill., and Wiha Tools, Monticello, Minn.
Cordless electric scissors
ZipSnip by Worx, Charlotte, N.C., is a small, easy-to-carry tool that can replace a pocket knife and scissors. Powered by a 4-volt (V) lithium-ion battery, and including self-sharpening blades, this handy tool cuts almost anything, including carpet. It holds its charge when not in use and has a status indicator that signals when the battery is fully charged. A lockout switch operates in conjunction with the trigger.
Job site Post-It pads
Few homes and offices are without stick-on notes. 3M’s Post-It Extreme Notes pads are designed specifically for construction and work sites. They are available in two sizes, 3-in.-by-3-in. and 4.5-in.-by-6.75-in. Write down messages or temporarily mark components and stick them on anything. Made of Dura-Hold paper and adhesive, the notes stick and stay attached to most surfaces, hot or cold, wet or dry, including wood, metal, brick, concrete and almost any material found on construction sites.
Wireless Inspection Camera
Cable Ferret, Auckland, New Zealand, is a versatile tool that has a wireless inspection camera and tip that can connect to many types of fish rods or fish wire. The 3½-inch-long rechargeable camera has six bright LEDs. Images captured by the camera are displayed on a 41/3-inch LCD display. The tool’s long-range capability provides a clear view to distances of 40 feet from camera. A 2 GB SD card can accommodate up to 10,000 photos or one hour of video. An optional Wi-Fi kit is available.
Kwik Draw Holster
This pouch with a 4-by-5-inch pocket fits on a belt or tool bag strap and is designed to hold a universal tape measure or other small tools. A stainless-steel locking cap keeps contents secure. The “kwik” release lock opens easily with a thumb release for easy access to contents. Kwik Draw holster products are made in the United States.
Boot and Glove Dryer
No need to wear yesterday’s wet boots. This forced air dryer accommodates boots up to 16-in. tall and a variety of footwear and gloves. Forced air heated to 105°F quickly removes moisture and helps reduce odor and prevent fungus growth. The dryer is safe to use and will not shrink, warp or otherwise damage shoes or other garments. Four home models and two travel dryers are available.
Extension cord protectors
When extension cords must be used outside, moisture can collect in plug connections during wet weather. Twist and Seal, Joliet, Ill., protectors enclose connections to help them keep dry. Several models are available, but for construction, heavy-duty MAXX protectors are recommended. Made of commercial-grade plastic, they are made in the United States to be durable for contractor use. The protector also helps prevent connected cords from pulling apart.
Cable tie cutter
The best, easiest way to install cable ties is with a cable tie cutter. The Panduit, Tinley Park, Ill., GT-E is made to install subminiature, miniature, intermediate and standard cross-section cable ties. Tie settings are made with a selection knob. An improved cut-off mechanism requires low handle force to cut the tie and minimize impact to the installer’s hand. The tool weighs only 10.4 ounces.
Lock-together extension cords
Extension cords that stop work by pulling apart can be a nuisance. When a cord with a standard U-ground 15A–125V plug is inserted into a connector on a ProLock extension cord by Milspec, Sorrento, Fla., it locks and will not pull apart. To release, simply pull down on the connector collar to disconnect the cords. ProLock cords have a patented continuous ground-monitoring feature that confirms the cord is grounded. ProLock cords are available in 50- and 100-feet.
Flowing light USB charging cable
Plug one of these charging cables into a wall outlet and device to be charged, and lighted LEDs “move” toward the device being charged that represent the flow of electricity during the charging process. As charging progresses, movement of light appears to slow to indicate the level of charge. They are available with lightning, USB and Micro USB versions.
Portable power station
A battery-powered portable power bank can be a convenient power source in situations where a gas generator can’t be used or long-running power isn’t needed. Klein Tools’ KTBS 546 Wh portable power station uses a high-density lithium-ion battery to produce silent, pure sine waves of steady clean power. It has four USB ports with a total output of 30-watt (W) and two 120V AC outlets with 300W continuous and 600W peak output. The self-contained power station weighs 14 pounds and has built-in, easy-to-grip carrying handle.
Handheld wet/dry vacuum
Lithium-ion-powered shop vacs are widely used. Small, handheld vacs also have a place on job sites as a personal vac for clean up in work areas that don’t require a larger vacuum. The DEV517 wet/dry vac by DeWalt, Baltimore, is an upgraded model powered by a 20V lithium-ion battery. It has a half-gallon tank and flexible hose attachment. It accepts DeWalt vacuum accessories. The HEPA filter traps up to 99.7% of dust particles as tiny as 0.3 microns. It also minimizes dust leakage in the vacuum exhaust. Milwaukee Tool, Klein Tools and Ridgid also offer handheld vacs.
Most stud finders have a light, and some emit an audible signal when a stud is detected. The ProSensor 710+ from Franklin Sensor, Meridian, Idaho, has a 7-inch-wide LED display that shows the center and edge of studs and the width of multiple studs around windows and doors. No calibration is required. Users just press and scan for instant results. Maximum detection depth is 1.6 inches. An integrated ruler helps make quick measurements.
Portable tool caddy
Years ago in a big convention centers, we saw an electrician pulling a well-used red children’s Radio Flyer wagon holding his tool box and scattered loose tools. Today, that electrician likely uses a versatile tool caddy that hold tools and accessories organized for easy access. A removable tray is good for storing hand tools. For example, the Husky 35 Mobile Work Cart can hold large power tools. An extendable handle and 8-in. wells make it easy to roll around work sites. Klein Tools, Milwaukee Tool, Stanley Tools, Rigid and DeWalt all offer tool caddies.
Headlamps light dark areas and free hands to do whatever needs to be done. Many, however, are spotlights with a narrow beam straight ahead. H2 headlamps from One80light illuminates a broad, 180-degree area. It weighs only 4 ounces with a rechargeable battery and produces 360 lumens on high and 180 on low. It is waterproof. Battery life per charge is three hours on high and seven hours on low.
Portable tool boxes and bags have become big items the past few years, and now tool backpacks are taking a share of the tool carrier market. Properly adjusted for fit, a good tool backpack holds a selection of tools and leaves arms and hands free.
Most backpacks are made from a tough, durable material with reinforcing to retain the shape. They have many compartments to hold tools and keep them from rubbing together, along with multiple inside and outside pockets.
Features to consider when evaluating tool backpacks include base and frame construction, padding to protect the back, padding on shoulder straps, pocket organization in relation to what the backpack will be expected to carry and durability.
Tool backpacks are available from many sources. Notable brands include DeWalt, Klein Tools, Milwaukee Tool, Fluke Corp. and Ideal Industries.